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Pink Polos are finally hurting the Roc

April 7, 2012

Jay Z reportedly stuttered when first given the opportunity to sign Kanye West to Rocafella, citing his preppy look and middle class upbringing as not ‘street’ enough for the label. Pink polos were not in Rocawear’s collection. The direction Rocafella artists old and new had been travelling was distinctly ghetto – Beenie Segal, Young Gunz, Cam’ron, Foxy Brown – and criminal records became as common as the wax variety. In the early 2000s, against the backdrop of Dr Dre’s and Snoops’ revival, Kanye West was an industry gamble.

Talib Kweli benefitted from Kanye’s beats on his 2002 Quality album and thought differently. An international rapper who established a career on the principles of black power music knew where West was coming from. In 2005 whilst still a young wannabe, Kanye West toured with rap royalty, Mos Def and Talib Kweli as an opening act, proving himself worthy of investment during the process.

The College Dropout made Rocafella Records in Europe, whether Jay Z realises it or not. Jay Z albums had never even gone gold before, yet in 2006, at Kentish Town Forum, a clearly overwhelmed Kanye West recieved his gold discs from Damon Dash who introduced him to the crowd as the best selling Rocafella artist in the UK to date (excuse the quality of the pictures, these were taken in the days of the 3 megapixel camera!)

Kanye West, Kentish Town Forum, 2006

Gangsta rap is not a big seller outside of the US. Kanye West, just like The Neptunes and the Black Eye Peas, showed that to sell a lot of records around the world you had to make rock/pop/soul beats and have diversity in your lyrics. Talk politics, talk parties and dress ghetto fashionista, not ghetto fabulous.

Kanye West. I used to love H.I.M. I had The College Dropout on repeat on my minidisc player. I saw him live eventually three times the year that album came out. His career has bought him wealth, fame and opportunities. I look at him now and think that he has stumbled into the thoughtless, obscenely capitalistic and sterile world he used to observe from outside and lament. Artists should reflect their change in circumstance, but does a change in circumstance change your values too? Judging Kanye West by his creative output, I can only say “yes”.

Kanye Lyrics pre dinners with Anna Wintour:

What if somebody from the Chi that was ill got a deal
on the hottest rap label around
But he wasn't talking bout coke and birds it was more like spoken word
Except he's really puttin it down
And he explained the story about how blacks came from glory
And what we need to do in the game...

____

Now hear ye hear ye want to see Thee more clearly
I know he hear me when my feet get weary
Cuz we're the almost nearly extinct
We rappers are role models we rap we don't think
I ain't here to argue about his facial features
Or here to convert atheists into believers
I'm just trying to say the way school need teachers
The way Kathie Lee needed Regis that's the way yall need Jesus
So here go my single dog radio needs this
They say you can rap about anything except for Jesus
That means guns, sex, lies, video tapes
But if I talk about God my record won't get played Huh?
Well let this take away from my spins
Which will probably take away from my ends
Then I hope this take away from my sins

____

How we stop the Black Panthers?
Ronald Reagan cooked up an answer You hear that?
What Gil Scott is "Heron"
When our heroes or heroines got hooked on heroin
Crack, raised the murder rate in D.C. and Maryland We, invested in that, it's like we got Merrill Lynched
And we been hangin from the same tree, ever since
Sometimes I feel the music is the only medicine

____

Good morning, this ain't Vietnam still
People lose hands, legs, arms, fo' real
Little was known on Sierra Leone
And how it connect to the diamonds we own
When I spit the diamonds in this song
I ain't talkin' 'bout the ones that be glowin'
I'm talkin' 'bout Roc-a-Fella, my home
My chain, this ain't conflict diamonds
Is they Jacob? Don't lie to me, man

____

I say fuck the police, thats how I treat em
We buy our way out of jail, but we can't buy freedom
We'll buy a lot of clothes when we don't really need em
Things we buy to cover up what's inside
Cause they make us hate ourself and love they wealth
That's why shortys hollering "where the ballas' at?"
Drug dealer buy Jordans, crackhead buy crack
And a white man get paid off of all of that
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